Prologue: Those Forgotten Stars
Far, far away, in the deepest reaches of space, a spaceship was falling.
Well, sort of. It was hurtling through a galaxy, skillfully dodging meteors and stars, while another spaceship sped in its direction, hot on its tail. Both pilots were evenly matched in speed and skill, it seemed. Neither could outrun nor catch up to the other.
The first spaceship, shaped oddly like a triangular arrowhead, spun around a planet and dipped under an isolated meteor. Its pilot, a tall young man, grinned with pleasure, enjoying himself thoroughly as he maneuvered his way between two pulsating stars.
A large screen on the dashboard of the triangular spaceship buzzed, and the image of their enemy appeared on it. Though the apparition was fuzzy and crackling with static, it was clear that the other pilot was furious.
“Give up this ridiculous chase,” he snarled, steel-sharp eyes cutting as a hundred knives. “You and your… brothers will never get away wi–”
“You don’t know that,” said the first pilot cheerfully.
“Of course I do! You are in possession of something that is rightfully mine, and whether it takes me one day or a thousand centuries to retrieve it, I will!”
The young man chuckled lightly, never taking his hands off the controls.
Even in the dimly-lit navigation room, the pilot’s smile was blinding.
A taller, slightly older boy standing behind the pilot nudged his shoulder.
“Don’t provoke him, James,” he said quietly. “Remember, last time he grazed the right wing because of your antics. It’s still malfunctioning, if you hadn’t forgotten. We don’t need any more trouble.”
The pilot shrugged, still smiling.
“Whatever you say, Remus.”
Their enemy’s image flickered. He growled at them.
“Well. Sorry to disappoint you, sir,” said James, not even close to being concerned (or afraid). He leaned back in his chair and opened a small glass lid protecting a round blue knob. “But we have no intention to die or be maimed permanently today.”
He twisted the knob twenty degrees to the right, thirty, forty…
“Have I mentioned,” said James in an offhand manner, “that when we visited Airopa 75, we made a few modifications to the ship…?”
The other pilot, who was beginning to grasp this idea, turned pale.
Fifty degrees… seventy… ninety…
“That’s right. We’ve got a few surprises for you.”
One hundred twenty… one hundred forty… one hundred sixty…
“Goodbye and good riddance.”
One hundred and eighty degrees.
A brief smile.
“No!” screamed the enemy. His finger stabbed at a button repeatedly, but in vain.
The spaceship, with James at the helm, began to glow blue around the edges.
“Five seconds until order launched,” announced a small boy by another set of controls. He adjusted his headset and watched the numbers appear on the timer.
The engines began to whir quietly.
Gears clicked into place.
The whirring began to intensify.
James stared into the brightening galaxy. He rested his index finger right above the knob.
A blast of sudden gunfire. The ship jolted to the right.
The small boy leaped from his seat.
“Launch! Start it! Blast off! Push that button! JAMES! Do something–!”
James, no longer smiling, pressed down hard on the knob.
The ship spun, accelerating by the second–
–and disappeared in a burst of light.
All that was left was stardust, invisible ashes, shattered shadows.
And the burning remains of the ship.